Friday, June 28, 2013

- The person playing the speech therapist for the AFLAC duck just said "axtresses" in an interview.  Made me spit a little coffee back in the cup.  One of the commenters on the site made notice of the "need for a black character actress as the speech therapist because the main character (duck) in the long running ad campaign is so very white."

- NFL fan reacting to the arrest of a player for murder - "Our team has a killer tight end we'd trade 'em if the price was right. What? What'd I say?"

- Just read a critique of the lynch mob mentality of our media frenzied society.  Don't worry, Paula Dean.  If Bill Clinton can recover from HIS faux pas, so can you.

       I'm not a fan of profanity.  I use it for emphasis occasionally.  But the effect is dampened by the common use  in most people's everyday usage.  When I suggested to a coworker that his language should be filtered around children and those who might be offended, he said "F 'em.  That's the way people talk today.  Get used to it."  
       I AM used to it.  Doesn't make me like it.  Profanity is discourteous and uncivil.  That's why it exists.  For shock value.  If you want the words to scream, throw in a few syllables of rude.  But if you become callous and common with it's use, the value is lost.  I worked with a Lt in the fire dept that used 'fuck' so frequently that we could play drinking games.  In one minute (timed without his knowledge) of rapid fire monologue, we counted twenty three instances.  My bet had been on a higher number.  When we pointed it out to him, he said "Shit (1), that's the way I fuckin' talk.  Fuckin' nobody even fuckin' hears it anymore."  He's right.  None of the people attuned to the way he spoke reacted to it.  But not everybody felt  that way, and he was offended when a new employee was offended.  We'd tried to tell him it was bound to happen.  Of course, in the real world, the fire department took the easy route and moved the probie to a different shift, and HE was gently ostracized for having manners and expecting them from others, rather than the old leutenant being disciplined.  
       Perhaps the lesson learned is that words are just noise unless you attach meaning to them, and connotations like 'hateful' and 'rude' are diminished with over-exposure.  It's the REACTION to the word that gives it power, and everybody knows that the best way to get a two year old to quit using words they've heard is to ignore them.  So.  Perhaps we should look more at people's intent when they use words like nigger, fag, honky, redskin, cracker, boy, and bitch.  Look more into why a person is compelled to use them, and to what effect. You cannot legislate language.  By giving words independent status in a category legally defined as "hate", you give them power that perhaps they don't deserve.
       I knew a very old woman, now passed, that referred to native americans as indians, and african-americans as niggers.  There was no hate in this woman. She'd forgiven those who'd offended her, and wasted no time trying to set others off.  Several people tried to suggest to her that she might be offending folks with the "hate" labels she used.  She had the same reaction as the fire Leutenant.  "Sorry.  They'll have to excuse me or get over it. I hope they can be that strong. Let them know I don't mean anything by it. But I don't have the energy to worry about it, or the energy to change how I speak."  Most people just raised an eyebrow and cut her some slack because she was old.
       I do think there are words that are charged.  I do think language can be hateful, and demeaning, and cruel.  I also think people should be civil, and generally cooperative, and open about racial divides and history.  Hatemongers of all races SHOULD be drowned out by civility, and words that offend should reflect on their user.  But the problem with criminalizing words, is that their meanings, their usage, their commonality, their connoted power, change.  The reaction to the intent of a categorized "hate" word has to be measured against it's context, the desired effect of it's user, and the agenda of the responder.
      If it's the word you wish would disappear, ignore it.  If it's the individual you're reacting to, then another path might be appropriate, or might not.

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